Towards Clean and Smart Mobility

From the loss of sea ice and the increase in sea levels to the occurrence of extreme events such as hurricanes, droughts or intensive heat waves, it’s hard to deny the dimension of what we are fighting here. And there’s more to come if we reach the temperature increase of 2° Celsius.

In an attempt to minimize these consequences, scientists have been looking into what may be the main causes of climate change. They found out that greenhouse gases (GHG) like carbon dioxide, methane or nitrous oxide, and aerosols are changing the atmosphere and leaving the planet more exposed.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) pointed out that of the 49 Gt Co2 eq released into the atmosphere in 2010, 14% was released by transportation vehicles. And despite being already a big number, this doesn’t even consider the Co2 impact of complementary activities such as manufacturing vehicles or getting road surfaces worn.

Transport plays a critical role in the way we live. Our food, clothes and household waste all need to be transported, contributing to our economy and quality of life. But the increasing use of planes, cars and other fossil-fuel dependent modes of transport is causing more pollution, putting at risk our environment and health. The European Environment Agency’s (EEA) Signals 2016 explores how Europe’s carbon-dependent transport sector can be turned into a clean and smart mobility system.

The EU’s transport sector depends on oil for 94 % of its fuel. It is clear that decarbonising Europe’s transport sector will take time. It requires a combination of measures, including better urban planning, technological improvements, and a wider use of alternative fuels. But it can be done and we know how we can make it happen. Cleaner and smarter transport can actually meet Europe’s need for mobility and at the same time deliver many public health benefits, including cleaner air, fewer accidents, less congestion and less noise pollution.

EEA Executive Director Hans Bruyninckx

Transport underpins our modern society and economy. At the same time, it is responsible for a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions, and causes air pollution, noise pollution and habitat fragmentation.

The European Union has already taken measures to mitigate the effects of transport pollution, and it has launched work on ambitious plans to create a low-carbon economy by 2050. These plans include making sure transport plays its part in reducing emissions.

As cars make up 72% of the Co2 emissions in this sector (followed by planes, with 10%), the market of electric cars has been growing and seems to be a good solution to fight climate change.

Are electric cars better for the environment?

The major benefit of electric cars is the contribution that they can make towards improving air quality in towns and cities. With no tailpipe, pure electric cars produce no carbon dioxide emissions when driving. This reduces air pollution considerably.

Put simply, electric cars give us cleaner streets making our towns and cities a better place to be for pedestrians and cyclists. In over a year, just one electric car on the roads can save an average 1.5 million grams of CO2.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are an important part of meeting global goals on climate change. They feature prominently in mitigation pathways that limit warming to well-below 2C or 1.5C, which would be inline with the Paris Agreement’s targets.

The fundamental difference between conventional, thermal cars and electric cars has to do with the process of transforming the potential (stored) energy into kinetic (movement) energy. In thermal cars, this energy is stored in a chemical form and is released through a chemical reaction inside the engine.

On the other hand, despite also having chemically stored energy, electric cars release it electrochemically without any kind of combustion, thanks to lithium-ion batteries. This means that there is no fuel being burned and therefore no air pollution through CO2 happening while driving.

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